Pat Robertson is turning over his duties as chief executive officer of the Christian Broadcasting Network to his son but will remain chairman, the outspoken 77-year-old religious broadcaster announced Monday.
Robertson said he told CBN's board that it was time for him to pass on some of the duties he has held since he founded CBN in 1960 and that during the weekend the board had unanimously elected Gordon Robertson to replace him.
The board also appointed Gordon Robertson vice chairman of the board. He will head CBN's efforts to expand into all phases of digital communications, the Virginia Beach-based network said in a statement.
"I thought that some of this day-to-day operation was important to pass down the line, especially to somebody a little more adept at figuring out the new technologies coming at such a bewildering speed to all of us," the elder Robertson said in his announcement on "The 700 Club," his news and talk show that is CBN's flagship program.
'Called by dad'
Gordon Robertson, who produces "The 700 Club," told viewers that his election was a big surprise.
"I got called by Dad following Friday's show in the dressing room and he says, 'Can you get up here and tell the board what you want to do with CBN in the future?'" Gordon Robertson said.
Pat Robertson, through a spokesman, declined a request for an interview.
Robertson has a history of making comments on "The 700 Club" that elicit criticism, such as saying that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, a frequent Robertson critic, said he expects Robertson will continue to have a strong presence at CBN.
"Pat Robertson is not going to lose ultimate control of his creation," said Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "He is much too interested in throwing his weight around in this current presidential campaign."
Last month, Robertson, also the founder of the Christian Coalition, endorsed Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, even though Giuliani backs abortion rights and gay rights — positions that conflict with conservative GOP orthodoxy.
He called Giuliani "a proven leader who is not afraid of what lies ahead and who will cast a hopeful vision for all Americans."
Still Regent University president
Robertson has been CEO since he founded CBN at a tiny UHF television station in Portsmouth. As chairman, he will remain actively involved with CBN and will continue as president of Regent University, CBN said.
CBN has about 2,800 employees and has sent out programs in 99 languages to more than 225 countries. Its humanitarian arm, Operation Blessing International, has provided humanitarian and disaster relief for an estimated 9.5 million people worldwide this year.
Gordon Robertson holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a law degree from Washington & Lee Law School.
He left a job as a partner with a law firm to work for CBN. He lived in the Philippines for five years and was in charge of CBN's Asian operations.